HR in the hot seat: CY Yau, head of HR at NetApp APAC

HRD chats with the head of HR at NetApp about the world’s changing business landscape, building a Great Place to Work and building employee engagement

HR in the hot seat: CY Yau, head of HR at NetApp APAC
What is your job title and what brought you into this role?
I am the head of human resources at NetApp APAC.
I was attracted to NetApp almost nine years ago for the opportunity to deliver to the company meaningful impact, build up its HR team and help drive business growth across various markets in the Asia-Pacific region. I also found NetApp’s culture and values very similar to my personal values and principles – the company was a great match for me. The hiring process was transparent with current situation and expectations clearly communicated.  
What motivates or excites you the most about your current position?
Definitely the people and the teams I am working with.
The business landscape is continuously evolving and changing the way we deliver HR business partnering, HR systems, talent management and organisational development. In this fast-moving marketplace, the HR function needs to constantly stay engaged with the business to anticipate changes in business needs, as well as proactively offer solutions for upcoming challenges to enable businesses to stay ahead and successful.
This is no different for the whole IT ecosystem which is also evolving alongside the market. At NetApp we have the right strategy to be successful, where HR is seen as a strategic business pillar, providing the foundation of success for the company by empowering our employee talent through career growth and learning opportunities.
What will be HR’s biggest challenges for the coming year?
Change, as well as the speed of change, will be the key challenge ahead for the next 24 months. Amid an evolving business landscape with changes in buying patterns and investment models, key industry players are consolidating, and the overall IT business industry is shifting towards cloud-based solutions amid the growing presence of the Internet of Things.
As HR, we need to help the organisation rapidly make changes to meet new business needs. This will involve training our employees with new skills, hiring key fresh talents with the right skills and knowledge, focusing on the right go-to-market model, and delivering effective solutions to our customers.
If you have one piece of HR advice to offer, what would it be?
You must always stay relevant by learning and sharing new skills, and keep up-to-date with the latest business, technology and economic trends.
What hobbies and interests do you have outside of HR?
I am into healthy living – both in terms of food and lifestyle. I also play golf… badly.
How did your HR team help NetApp become one of Asia’s Best Workplaces?
NetApp aspires to build a model company that we can be proud of for the long term. This starts with focusing on and doing the right things for our customers.  We need to have a strategy that evolves to reflect the current landscape and anticipate the future; disciplined execution that translates strategy into results; leadership that knows the business and gets things done, and a culture that inspires employees to excellence, rewards a bias towards action, and embraces change. We are committed to delivering shareholder value, contributing to our communities, and creating a work environment where innovation and collaboration thrive.
Our HR team is responsible for cultivating and driving NetApp’s culture and values across all our markets in Asia. This permeates from our senior leadership down to our front line sales teams, and back up along the chain of management. It starts from hiring for the right cultural fit and having the right set of values that we live by. NetApp has high standards for the behaviour and attitudes for both leadership and employees; these help build trust and respect among staff and is critical to a long-term positive workplace.
One of the benefits of being a multinational company is our international network of offices across the globe. We learn from and adopt the best practices from our headquarters and offices in the US and EMEA regions, localising them to best fit our APAC culture. In this manner, we have implemented new employee engagement processes and benefits that are now used globally across all NetApp offices. Sharing works both ways, where the APAC team also passes on our best practices to our US and EMEA counterparts.
Now that you’ve won the award, what are your plans for the future?
We have been enhancing our employee engagement model by encouraging our managers to engage even more with their team members to guide their career development and build an even more vibrant workforce. As an extension of our open-door policy, where we have our employees actively participate in efforts that help the company grow, we hold Manager Forums and Employee Chat sessions across the region where staff are able to engage our executives in more intimate, small group settings. We are also streamlining our career assessment and development processes to facilitate an open and smooth discussion between employees and managers for their developmental needs and opportunities.
Creating a Great Place to Work like NetApp is a continuous process, an ongoing journey that evolves progressively. We are excited for the future, as we grow in tandem with our customers and partners. There will be ups and downs along this journey, but our strong and cohesive ties among our employees will be the robust foundation for the company to strive ahead.

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